We publish a complete free-to-read short story on the web every Thursday. The newest story is below. See all stories.
For the last few days I have been feeling quite unsettled, but when I sat taking the air in the courtyard this evening, my thoughts suddenly turned to the lotus pond that I go past every day. It must look quite different in the light of the full moon. And so, with the moon gradually rising and the sound of children’s laughter in the street fading beyond the wall, I left my wife in the house stroking Ruan and crooning folk tunes in a daze, q...
2016 is, everyone agrees, a bad year for China. Usually, what a bad
year consists of is everyone telling each other “It’s a bad year here
in China”. But there’s good evidence that this year is objectively
worse than most. First, there’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade,
which might be a righteous attempt to return the government to the
strait and narrow, but also might be a thinly-disguised campaign to
rid the official ranks of the less-than-loyal – and, sadly, is
probably both. The past twelve months seem have been a record season
for lawyer jailing which is always a really, really bad sign. The
internet occasionally verges on unusable. Hong Kong booksellers are
disappearing. For some reason, the fact that women’s-rights activist
Xiao Meili was stopped by police outside the Beijing Bookworm and
turned back from an event she was supposed to attend really drove it
home for me.
Even in better times, China’s publishing industry generally leads the
nation in gratuitous timidity. The echo-chamber effect is particularly
strong here – whispered rumors, sidelong glances, knowing nods, and
then the quiet consensus that “we’d better not risk it”. In a country
where everyone is kept guessing by the capriciousness of those in
power, publishers seem to have more sensitive antennae than pretty
much anyone else out there. And apart from occasional meetings with
SAPRFFT (where the government directives rarely amount to anything
more specific than “be careful, this is a bad year for China”),
publishers don’t have much more to go on than water-cooler gossip.
That, and the occasional castastrophic exercise of brute authority.
By Eric Abrahamsen, May 27 '16, 11:20p.m.
Paper Republic collective and friends put together this list for LitHub.com:
"Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. Yet the near-invisibility of Chinese women writers internationally is entirely undeserved. They flourish on the literary scene at home and have done so since the beginning of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century. We are quite proud that this list (drawn up by the Paper-Republic.org collective and friends) ranges so widely. There’s something here for everyone, from travel literature to novels and short story collections, from fantasy and sci-fi to meditations on love and loneliness, with plenty of dark humor along the way. We have included works from all over the Chinese-writing world–mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (and one from USA too)."
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 3:03p.m.
Terrific article by Helen Wang and Paul Crook:
"The British Museum collection of Mao badges currently stands at about 350 pieces. It’s part of the UK’s national collection of badges from all over the world. Since the catalogue of Mao badges was published, every so often I receive emails from people who have their own Mao badge collections, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands. One such person is Clint Twist, who, with only a little encouragement a couple of years ago, set up what is probably the first English language website devoted to Mao badges — and tweets a Mao badge almost every day @clinttwist.
More recently, I discovered that one of the British Museum volunteers, Paul Crook, had been a teenage Mao badge dealer in Beijing in the 1960s! Paul — who was recently interviewed by the BBC for a segment on posters from the Mao era — kindly agreed to talk about that time, vividly confirming Dikötter’s statement that “badges were the most hotly traded pieces of private property during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, open to every form of capitalist speculation.”
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 2:59p.m.
Why are Beijing's gig venues closing?
Yang Jiang (1911-2016)
Yang Jiang died at Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, according to The Paper, a state-owned news website. It said her death had been confirmed by her publisher, the People's Literature Publishing House.
As Chinese sci-fi picks up steam, it’s finding fans around the world
Although many foreign readers are very interested in Chinese science fiction, many have limited access to its works due to language barriers and lack of translations.
One out of 178 social media posts in China's cybersphere are authored and posted by a government employee — totaling 488 million annual posts — according to a new report written by professors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California.
It is based partly on analysis of leaked e-mails (43,000!) from an Internet Propaganda Office in Jiangxi. It appears that most are intended to distract the public from bad news. You can read about the report here and here, or download the 34-page PDF here.
So much for quantitative research. I'm more interested in how the 50c Party (五毛党) plays out in contemporary Chinese fiction. I recall the way author Stephen Koonchung recreated one of China's first real social-media-driven “mass incidents” (trucks carrying hundreds of dogs to slaughter in Beijing were blocked by activists thanks to real-time messaging) in his Kafkaesque Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. Such scenes in a novel can be quite effective in sensitizing readers to the phenomenon, perhaps more than any single statistics-studded report.
- Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
- How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
- Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?
By Bruce Humes, May 20 '16, 8:28p.m.
Beijing hosts prestigious Bologna exhibition (children's book illustration)
Beijing's National Museum of Classic Books is currently hosting the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition. Featuring the works of 70 international illustrators, it's the exhibition's first appearance outside of Italy. Exhibition in Beijing until 22 May, then touring to 5 other cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Chengdu.
The Rise of the Chinese Hipster
A popular Beijing arts magazine listed profiles of Wenqing in a 2014 article: “An advertising employee who writes critiques of plays and goes to the Philippines for diving trips. In her spare time, she translates cookbooks. Another works at a multinational and is in charge of public relations. She goes to work on a bus and listens to classical music. She copies poems into a tiny notebook each night and has translated three romantic novels from English into Chinese . . . They want a comfortable life, but also a rich spiritual existence. They appreciate the poetry of Rilke and they go to Europe for fun.”
Dinosaur relics named after science fiction writer Liu Cixin
A new kind of bird-footed dinosaur footprint was discovered in Gulin county, Southwest China's Sichuan province and named for Chinese science-fiction writer Liu Cixin, to honor his contribution to raising public interest in science.
The Liu Cixin Caririchnium
Research Results: Sales of Translated Fiction in the UK Shows Growth
The good news:
Translated literary fiction makes up only 3.5% of the literary fiction titles published in the UK, but 7% of the volume of sales
On average, translated fiction books sell better than books originally written in English, particularly in literary fiction.
The not-so-good news:
No Chinese fiction among top 15 translated titles in 2015
We are delighted to announce the results of the 2016 Bai Meigui translation competition, a collaboration between Paper Republic and the Writing Chinese project at Leeds University. Over 80 entrants submitted translations of the competition text by 李静睿 Li Jingrui, and it was only after lengthy deliberation (and the occasional threat of violence) that the judges were able to narrow the shortlist down to just one winner and runner-up:
By David Haysom, May 10 '16, 7:43a.m.
Speaking recently at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Chinese author Yan Lianke (閻連科) spoke about the ominous rise of a "warm and fuzzy" kind of Chinese literature (温暖的文学) that the government, readers and critics all find acceptable. Here is an excerpt from notes taken at the talk (thus they may not be his exact words) which appear in an article 中國文學的唱衰者 at the newly launched (and interesting) Chinese-language web site, theinitiam.com:
By Bruce Humes, May 1 '16, 7:51p.m.
According to a 2016-04-28 report (战略投资) in The Paper (澎湃讯), Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典文化) has made a “strategic investment” in France’s Editions Philippe Picquier. The report does not specify the $ amount or portion of the French publisher that is now in Chinese hands. Picquier is already a major French-language publisher of Chinese fiction writing including titles by Yu Hua, Wang Anyi, Alai, Su Tong, Han Shaogong, Bi feiyu, Chi Zijian, Ge Fei, Liang Hong and Li Er.
Some 15,000 copies of Wang Anyi’s 《长恨歌》(Le Chant des regrets éternels) have sold in French, according to the news item. Picquier's first venture into the world of translated Chinese popular fiction publishing was apparently Wei Hui's naughty Shanghai Baby, back in the early 2000s.
It will be interesting to see if and how Thinkingdom uses Picquier as a platform for the campaign to bring more contemporary Chinese literature in translation to the Francophone world.
By Bruce Humes, April 30 '16, 7:44p.m.
Author Yue Tao - event in London on 4 May
Talk and discussion with author Yue Tao, about her book Shanghai Blue, in London on 4 May, at 18.30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 May to reserve a place. £5/£8.
Chen Zhongshi, Shaanxi-based author of the 20th-century classic, White Deer Plain (白鹿原, 陈忠实著), has died.
1) White Deer Plain has been published in French, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Anyone working on the English, and if not, why not?
2) The novel was published in 1993. Any insights into why he wrote relatively little thereafter?
3) How to render the first line of White Deer Plain --- especially 房 ---:
By Bruce Humes, April 29 '16, 7:47p.m.
Hao Jingfang nominated for this year's Hugo Awards
Hao Jingfang has been nominated for this year's Hugo Awards with her novel "Folding Beijing"
Reclaiming the Evenki Narrative: Last Shaman’s Daughter Tells her People’s 20th-century Tale
There are only 30,000 or so Evenki (鄂温克族) on the Chinese side of the Sino-Russian border. But this Tungusic-speaking, reindeer-herding people — particularly the group known as the Aoluguya Evenki — has been the subject of several award-winning documentaries and even a novel that won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2008. According to an article on the China Writer’s Association web site, a new novel — 驯鹿角上的色带 — featuring the Evenki will launch end April.
Natascha Bruce talks about starting out as a Chinese-to-English translator: "....it actually never occurred to me to make the link between literature existing in translation, and there being real people out there creating those translations. I don’t know what I would have said I thought happened, if pushed? That once you have studied Chinese for one hundred years and can prove, for certain, that you know everything – will catch every single hidden reference to a Tang poem without missing a beat – there’s a special ceremony and you are given a laptop made of jade and a library of books, and told to go forth and be the person to make them accessible to the English-reading world, something mystical like that."
By Nicky Harman, April 21 '16, 4:11p.m.
Every year, the LTC hosts wall-to-wall panels and discussions about the highlights and lowlights of being a translator, and the business of translation in general, for the whole three days. We didn’t keep any notes but, thankfully, others did. Here’s a selection of blogs and articles.
By Nicky Harman, April 19 '16, 5:31a.m.
For London folk: Centre of Taiwan Studies
"Masked Dolls" - An evening with the Taiwanese Author Shih Chiung-Yu.
28 April 2016, 7:00 PM, at Brunei Gallery, Room: B102, School of Oriental and African Studies, Malet Street, London WC1
By Nicky Harman, April 15 '16, 9:28a.m.
The big recent news in Chinese children's literature is Cao Wenxuan's winning of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for Children's Literature". It's a big deal inside China, where the media closely watches the progress of the prize.
Like the Nobel, the prize is given to a writer for their entire oeuvre, not for any book in particular, but despite this everyone still points to works in particular. In this case, that's probably Bronze and Sunflower, translated by Helen Wang and published in the UK last year by Walker Books. In honor of the win, we conducted an email interview with Helen about her views on Cao's works (in case you didn't know, Helen is also one of the editors of Read Paper Republic, and is currently to be found representing PR at the London Book Fair). See below for the full interview.
By Eric Abrahamsen, April 13 '16, 5:42a.m.
Paper Republic shortlisted for International Excellence Award at London Bookfair 2016
Paper Republic is one of the three organisations shortlisted for the Literary Translation Initiative Award:
Words Without Borders
Ming Dynasty Looney Tunes: Journey to the West in Popular Culture
Cut off my head and I’ll still go on talking,
Lop off my arms and I’ll sock you another.
Chop off my legs and I’ll carry on walking,
Carve up my guts and I’ll put them together.
[…] To bath in hot oil is really quite nice,
A warm tub that makes all the dirt gone.
–Journey to the West, Chapter 46 (translated by W.J.F. Jenner, Foreign Language Press)
So speaks Sun Wukong, better known in English as the Monkey King, after Monkey, British sinophile Arthur Waley’s enduring early 20th century translation of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West 西游记. Thanks to Waley’s judicious to abridgement of the massive Ming dynasty novel into a much shorter and (arguably) more readable novel, for a time at least The Great Sage was able to enjoy an equal measure of fame both at home and abroad. Although the novel is less well known today, nearly a century later, Monkey has many ways found an even greater success—as a cartoon character.
To my knowledge, no systematic study of Monkey King comics, cartoons, animations, plays, live action TV dramas, movies, etc. has ever been attempted. Perhaps the task is too daunting, or perhaps it seems redundant, given the very ubiquity of Monkey King merchandise and media already flooding the Chinese marketplace–especially in year of monk-orological significance, Anno Simian. At times I even suspect that stronger emotions may be at play: as one friend (Chinese American, but also an American living in China) put it when I mentioned that I was writing a paper on the topic, “Oh god, which of the eight million versions are you going to do?”
Cao Wenxuan wins Hans Christian Andersen 2016 author award
IBBY is proud to announce the winners for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award – the world’s most prestigious children’s book award and the IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award - awarded to two groups or institutions whose outstanding activities are judged to be making a lasting contribution to reading promotion programmes for children and young people.
Congratulations to Hans Christian Andersen Award Winners:
Author: Cao Wenxuan from China
Illustrator: Rotraut Susanne Berner from Germany
Paper Republic is looking for an intern in Beijing to work with us on
literary and publishing events this year, from late spring to early
fall. Think you might be interested? Drop us a line!
What’s going on this year
In addition to our usual activities, Paper Republic is running two
larger events this year, and need more hands on deck. In late June
we’re hosting a publishing fellowship, where publishers and editors
will come from around the world to spend a week in Beijing, getting to
know Chinese writers and publishers. Then in late August is the
Beijing International Book Fair, when we’ll be conducting a small literary festival
as part of the Fair.
Who we’re looking for
We need someone in Beijing with an interest (and preferably
experience) in literature, publishing, and translation. We’re really
hoping to find someone who is strong in both English and Chinese, but
don’t mind what nationality you are. We need someone who’s organized,
motivated and creative, and who thrives on the unexpected.
We need someone who can dedicate at least fifteen hours week to the
job, preferably more, and who can join us at our office in Beijing at
least two days a week.
What you’ll be doing
Helping us plan literary and publishing events, arranging itineraries
and schedules, writing news copy, liaising with publishers and
editors, and picking famous writers up from the airport.
What we can provide you
A fun working environment with entertaining co-workers, a chance to
meet all manner of people, a small monthly stipend, letters of
recommendation, good coffee, and some unique experiences.
If you think you fit the bill, and are available from around April to
the end of August, get in touch with us at email@example.com.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
By Eric Abrahamsen, March 30 '16, 1:40a.m.
"The Novella in Chinese Literature"
Charles A. Laughlin and Liu Hongtao introduce By the River: Seven Novellas from Twenty-first Century China, curated by coeditor Liu Hongtao 刘洪涛, vol. 6 in the Chinese Literature Today book series at the University of Oklahoma Press.
Includes: Xu Zechen’s “Voice Change”, Chi Zijian’s “Flurry of Blessings” and Han Shaogong’s “Mountain Songs from the Heavens".
Ruined City at the Complete Review
Much of what happens -- most of the 'action', it seems -- is pretty everyday; indeed, Ruined City is remarkable for its willingness to putter along through the everyday, in contrast to so much modern fiction that insists up spectacular and dramatic incident after incident. Here it goes so far that there's a great deal of discussion about (as well as going to) toilets -- from the city-planning stage (there's still a great reliance on public facilities in Xijing, and with the growth of the city a need for more to be built) to the domestic. From arranging meals and meetings to various small items different characters purchase, Ruined City offers an intimate account of what seem like the not too exciting lives of these characters. But that's not quite how it works out: going on at length does serve a purpose; Ruined City does add up to something more, its cumulative and final effect quietly devastating.
I find searching for ways to make my work more efficient to be one of the most effective and rewarding methods of procrastination. Here are a few of the apps, websites and pieces of machinery I’ve discovered on that quest.
By David Haysom, March 20 '16, 8:32a.m.